Hundreds feared dead as landslide buries 300 homes

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MEXICO CITY - Hundreds were feared dead in Mexico Tuesday after a landslide buried 300 homes in the country’s southern Oaxaca state.

After flying over the disaster area, state Governor Ulises Ruiz said 500 to 600 people may have been killed. Seven bodies had been recovered by early afternoon.

Up to 1,000 residents lived in the buried area and some 100 families were missing, local media reported.

The landslide happened around 4 am while most residents were still sleeping in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec some 70 km east of the provincial capital Oaxaca, officials said.

“Parts of the mountain broke apart over the centre of our community and buried many huts and houses with sleeping families,” local official Donato Vargas told the Despertador de Oaxaca newspaper.

The national and state governments were sending rescue teams to the area, which was difficult to access because numerous landslides had blocked roads. Marines, army troops, national police and civil protection authorities were on their way, officials in Mexico City said. State officials had also sent rescue dogs.

“It is impossible to reach Tlahuitoltepec at the moment,” engineer Juanito Chcon said via telephone. In addition to blocked roads, an important bridge was threatening to collapse and could not be used.

Several settlements make up Tlahuitoltepec, which has some 9,000 residents, many of whom are Mixe indigenous people.

Southern Mexico has been hit by days of rain. Most recently, tropical storm Matthew prompted flooding and landslides. Some 400 people have been killed by flooding and landslides during the rainy season in Mexico and Central America since May.

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